Mackenzie Boyle plays girls’ lacrosse all year.
In the summer, fall and winter before her junior spring at Red Bank Catholic High School, Boyle focused on building a new skill: winning face offs.
Boyle recognized that her height (5-11), length and strength made her perfect for earning possessions. When the Caseys got together in the spring of 2018, their coach, Troy Madison, agreed with his junior standout.
Madison paired Boyle up with senior Kristen Pezzullo, another elite draw control player. For 10-15 minutes each afternoon, Boyle and Pezzullo went at each other with lacrosse’s most important currency, possession of the ball, on the line.
Through this process, Boyle developed into Red Bank Catholic’s best possession creator, winning 123 draws during the 2018 campaign. Boyle’s ability to control the ball and create chances sparked an electrifying Caseys’ attack.
Red Bank Catholic scored 266 goals and went 19-3. It also reached the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 sectional tournament semifinals, falling to Manasquan High School both times, 8-7 and 12-11, respectively.
But Boyle and eight other starters are back for 2019, so RBC’s goals are clear.
“Win the conference and the sectional,” said Madison.
Red Bank Catholic will open its season on March 27 at home against Monroe Township High School.
Both of the team’s goals are very possible.
Boyle is not just back. She is focused, too. Before the season, the senior committed to play collegiate lacrosse for Jacksonville University.
Her decision will not weigh her down or loom over RBC’s season. Madison has noticed Boyle’s mental peace on the practice field.
The senior emerged as RBC’s offensive leader last spring. But this year, she is taking on a vocal leadership role as well.
Boyle talks to her teammates every day about the trophies that alluded them a year ago.
“They are all ready to accept that challenge,” Madison said.
“Everybody has the mindset of winning and going further than last year,” Boyle added.
The Caseys are confident because they can control the ball and create scoring chances. Boyle is the biggest reason for that, but she is hardly the only reason.
Junior Abi George also drilled with Boyle last year during practices, and became a strong face off player in her own right. Fellow junior Grace Gargiulo is Red Bank Catholic’s “energizer bunny,” Madison said.
Last spring, Gargiulo led the Caseys in ground balls and was third on the team in face off victories. At 5-3, she is the opposite of Boyle in stature. But she plays a similar possession creating role.
“She’s a great two way midfielder,” Madison said.
“Grace is amazing at ground balls,” Boyle added. “She knows how to get low and get every ball.”
Red Bank Catholic should control games this season. But even when it doesn’t, RBC’s defense will stand firm more often than not.
Goaltender Lindsay Mazzucco was a First Team All-Shore Conference selection in 2018. All four of the defenders who helped her earn that honor, Lily Gardner, Grace Bruther, Jenna Wyland and Riley Trainer, are back for 2019.
“Defense was our strength going into last year,” Madison said. “A lot of the midfielders and attacks were first year starters.”
Red Bank Catholic is a complete team. Madison is just trying to manage expectations.
“We just have to go day by day and game by game,” he said.